Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Want to go out and watch a movie, while staying safe and keeping close to home? An event this weekend in Ballston may be for you.

The Ballston Business Improvement District is hosting a “retro drive-in movie night” on Saturday, in the parking lot of Gold’s Gym, &pizza and Spokes Etc. The timeless 80s film The Princess Bride will be shown starting at dusk.

The cost of admission is not quite as retro as the format: it’s $40 per car, though it’s free for members of the BallstonConnect Club. (The club is free for residents of certain apartment buildings and employees of some office buildings, $120/year for others.)

More from the event webpage:

Tired of staying in? Join the BallstonConnect Club for a retro drive-in movie night! That’s right, the drive-in is back, and coming to a neighborhood near you. Grab your date and cruise down to Ballston to watch an exclusive screening of The Princess Bride on Saturday, June 13th.

What date would be complete without dinner? Don’t forget to place your order from &pizza before the screening begins. The event kicks off at 8:15 PM, and the screening begins at dusk.

Space for this event is limited, so get your tickets soon!

Photo via Google Maps

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnowStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties remains firmly committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees, tenants and community. This week, Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1000 and 1100 Wilson (The Rosslyn Towers).

With on-demand services businesses finding new customers during the pandemic, local startup Mechaniku is hunting for local car mechanics and willing to pay to get new mechanics trained, if necessary.

Mechaniku is a Columbia Pike-based startup built around the idea of bringing oil changes and other essential car services out of the shop and to people’s houses.

“I need to hire more mechanics,” co-founder Jesse Tyler said. “We’ve got two right now, I need more. We have a guy in Maryland and a guy in Virginia. We were in the process of hiring more mechanics, then all of this happened.”

Tyler said coronavirus has actually halted some of the progress that was being made on building the service, given the reduction in driving, but he’s able to carry on by running the company lean — and by having another source of income.

“We were able to step back a little and put things on hold,” Tyler said. “We don’t carry a lot of debt, we’ve built as we’ve grown.”

Tyler said he’s also been reevaluating the pricing model, which is currently $100 for an at-home oil change. With most oil changes averaging $50, it’s a little pricey, but Tyler said he has to balance the company revenue with paying the mechanics fairly.

“We need to figure out how to get more people interested,” Tyler said. “We might reexamine our pricing model. We may cut it from $100 to maybe $80.”

Tyler said he is hoping Mechaniku can be poised to take advantage of the end of the pandemic, when people start driving more but are still a bit wary to take their cars to a bricks-and-mortar garage for an oil change.

“Coronavirus has slowed everything to a halt, but we expect it will pick back up,” Tyler said, noting that he’s able to serve people needing an oil change immediately but said demand has been low.

Those interested in applying for a mechanic position should email Tyler at [email protected] or call him at (202) 880-2430.

“Obviously, more experience the better, but I’ll pay for people to get trained and certified,” Tyler said. “You just need to be able to pass a background check and have a vehicle to drive.”

Image via Mechaniku

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Morning Notes

Country Club Files Layoff Notice — Arlington’s Washington Golf and Country Club has filed a WARN Act notice of potential layoffs. The club said it may lay off up to 188 employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. [InsideNova]

Local Eye Doctor Sees Big Decline in Business — “Dr. Nicole Renaud, an Arlington, Virginia, ophthalmologist, said she had a full schedule of patients and worked long hours before the pandemic. Now, she sees a few patients a week, mostly through telemedicine… As a result, her practice’s income has fallen by a stunning 90%.” [WTOP]

SUVs Stolen from Koons Toyota Dealership — “At approximately 1:44 p.m. on April 21, police were dispatched to the report of several stolen vehicles. Upon arrival, it was determined that during an inventory of vehicles, four 2020 silver Toyota Highlanders were determined to have been stolen between April 7 and April 21.” [Arlington County]

Civ Fed Zooms into Virtual Future — “For 104 years, the Arlington County Civic Federation held its monthly meetings in a group setting. But on April 21, to address the COVID-19 public-health situation, the organization conducted its proceedings in a ‘virtual’ setting. ‘We are experimenting,’ Civic Federation president Allan Gajadhar said at the opening of the meeting, held on the online platform Zoom.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

APS Creates Learning at Home Guide — “We have created a Learning at Home webpage that pulls details on instruction, additional educational resources for families, activities and resources for coping with stress. If you have questions, please send them to [email protected]” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

How to Report Price Gouging in Virginia — “If you see excessive price increases for coronavirus (COVID-19) necessities, report it to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.” [Facebook, Attorney General Mark Herring]

Costco Encouraging Social Distancing — Costco in Pentagon City has had lines out of the door every morning since the start of the coronavirus crisis. The line has gotten longer — and more spread out — in the interest of social distancing. [Twitter]

Airports Remain Open — Reagan National Airport remains open, reportedly with no plans to limit access. Most stores and restaurants at DCA also remain open, but with modified hours. [Twitter, Twitter]

Signature Theater Show Goes Online — “Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., is looking to make its production of Dani Stoller’s ‘Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes’ available online to ticketholders.” [New York Times]

Ramen Shop Offering Free Food for Seniors — “Gaijin Ramen Shop management and staff are heartbroken by elders without food because of the COVID-19 pandemic… We are offering FREE delivery of fresh vegetable ramen soup to any elderly in need.” [Community Post]

Free Pizza for Kids at Troy’s Italian — “On March 20, from 12-8 p.m. we will be doing free pizza slices for kids. We are also offering contactless curbside pickup. Call us at (703) 528-2828 when you get here, and we will bring the food out, and put it into the trunk of your car for you.” [Facebook]

Vehicle Inspection Enforcement Suspended — “Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of State Police to suspend the enforcement of Motor Vehicle Safety Inspections for 60 days.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

New Local Facebook Page — “Community activist and Arlingtonian Kellen MacBeth has centralized tools and resources for people in need during the coronavirus outbreak. His Facebook page, Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19, is up to 2,000 members in just one day of its existence.” [WDVM]

Nearby: Coronavirus Strikes Falls Church Senior Center — “A resident at The Kensington assisted living center in the City of Falls Church has tested positive for COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today. It is the first reported case of the coronavirus in the City.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

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Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings.

MotoRefi, a Ballston-based car refinancing company, has fueled up with a new batch of funding and welcomed a former Uber executive along for the ride.

The company just raised $8.6 million in Series A funding, an announcement that was paired with news that former Uber executive and D.C.-based venture capitalist Rachel Holt is joining the company’s Board of Directors. Holt was an early investor in MotoRefi but joined the company in an official capacity this month.

“I’m eager to bring my experience building Uber to MotoRefi’s Board,” Holt said in a press release. “MotoRefi is transforming the world of auto financing. I’m proud to have been an early investor and am extremely excited about the team they’ve built.”

The press release noted that the new funding will allow the company to scale up with new lenders and partners.

MotoRefi checks your auto loan interest rate and tries to offer a better rate than what is provided by the dealership, factoring in things like improved credit scores.

“You make payments every month, but do you ever wonder if you could be paying less?” the company said on its website. “That’s where MotorRefi comes in.”

The company, started in 2017, aims to simplify the refinancing process to make it more accessible for the average driver still making payments on their car.

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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Morning Notes

Metro Tests New Tech in Pentagon City — The Transportation Security Administration and Metro rolled out new security technology at the Pentagon City Metro station on Tuesday. The system “can detect an individual concealing an improvised explosive device, such as a suicide vest or another weapon.” [Fox 5, Twitter]

HQ2 Leads to Development Boom — “Arlington officials, developers, market researchers — everyone, really — predicted that Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival in the county would generate a development boom in the company’s neighborhood. So far, they’ve been right.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tafti Sworn in as Prosecutor — Parisa Dehghani-Tafti was sworn in Monday as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. On Tuesday she warned a crowd at a progressive think tank there has been a “growing narrative in pretty extreme circles that trying to reimagine the criminal-legal system is somehow going to make us less safe…somehow disrespects victims.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]

Airport Authority Voting on $15 Wage — After years of protests, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is set to vote today on a new policy that would increase the hourly wages of contracted workers — baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, lobby agents, skycaps, cabin cleaners, airport concessions and airline catering workers — from $12.75 to $15 by 2023. [Press Release]

Beyer Pushing for Quieter Airplanes — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has long advocated against excessive noise from aircraft landing at and taking off from Reagan National Airport, is calling on NASA to study ways to make commercial jetliners quieter and cleaner in a new bill. [Press Release]

Northam Proposes Nixing Vehicle Inspections — “Gov. Ralph Northam wants to end state-mandated vehicle safety inspections and cut vehicle registration fees in half, proposals his administration says would eventually save Virginians more than $280 million per year. But motorists would have to pay a few dollars more each time they fill up on gas under a proposal to increase the state’s motor vehicle fuels tax from about 22 cents per gallon to 34 cents per gallon over three years.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Someone stole airbags from numerous vehicles in the Shirlington area early Wednesday morning.

Police responded to the 2700 block of S. Quincy Street in Shirlington and along S. Glebe Road and S. Veitch Street in the nearby Long Branch Creek neighborhood on the morning of Nov. 15 for a report of vehicles that had been broken into overnight.

Officers found “approximately nine vehicles had their windows smashed and airbags stolen.” So far, there’s no word on a suspect or suspects.

More from an Arlington County Police crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2019-11130054/11130089/11130115, 2700 block of S. Quincy Street/S. Veitch Street at S. Glebe Road/2700 block of S. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:38 a.m. on November 13, police were dispatched to the report of multiple vehicles that had been broken into. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that approximately nine vehicles had their windows smashed and airbags stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

File photo

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A new car-sharing company for quick trips or all-day rentals has quietly rolled out vehicles in Arlington and D.C.

The sedan ARLnow spotted in the Bluemont neighborhood was discreet, with a sticker reading “dash” on the driver’s side door. It is part of the “Penske Dash” car-sharing venture recently launched by Michigan automotive services company Penske Corp.

However, the service’s debut is “awkward” timing considering Car2Go has been cutting service, and General Motors, Lime and BMW have also pulled out from their car-sharing programs, as TechCrunch reported.

The former CEO of Car2Go, Paul Delong, is leading local operations for Dash, per TechCrunch.

Dash’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Montri told ARLnow today (Thursday) that the company was choosing to invest anyway because Penske’s focus on slow growth for the program, experience in automotive, and partnership with Colonial Parking would help it succeed where others had failed.

“As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas,” he said. “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership.”

Montri added that Arlington and D.C. were “great” spots to pilot Dash because “residents of these communities have shown an interest in, and comfort with, new mobility models,” and the local governments were willing to work with companies offering new transit programs.

Penske joins French company Groupe PSA, which also launched its own car-sharing program “Free2Move” in the D.C. area in June. Groupe PSA’s program now operates around 600 vehicles in D.C. and Arlington, according to industry news site Automotive News.

Montri did not answer how many Dash cars Penske planned to roll out in the county when asked by ARLnow.

Dash works in a similar way to competitors like Free2Move and Car2go: users download an app to create an account, locate an available Volkswagen Jetta, and unlock it with the app to get behind the wheel.

Users can then “return” the cars by parking anywhere it is street legal in Arlington or D.C. However, the service’s warns people to avoid underground garages where apps can struggle for signal.

Dash credits up to $25 to fuel up the cars, but users pay the rest, along with a 45 cent charge per minute spent driving the car. The difference between Dash and its competitors, Montri said, was better vehicle upkeep and customer service.

Montri’s full statement about Dash is below.

As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas. Mobility as a Service (Maas) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership. 

Penske has a legacy in transportation solutions, spanning automobiles, services and trucks. We bring our expertise to the marketplace, and alongside our partners, Penske Dash offers best-in-class quality and operational excellence.

Our entry into any market will be methodical as we grow in partnership with local communities, pursuing customer satisfaction and repeat business as primary metrics rather than number of users or vehicles. Additionally, both the A-to-B and rent-by-minute models provide added flexibility for those who may not wish to return their rental to the same starting point, or return, by a specific time.

In Washington DC, Penske Dash’s partnership with Colonial Parking gives members a guaranteed free parking solution in dense, city center areas so they can avoid struggling to find street space.

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A string of vehicle break-ins in north Arlington is continuing, but this time a suspect might have been caught on camera.

Someone stole a cell phone from an unlocked car in a garage on the 4700 block of N. Carlin Springs Road late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to Arlington County Police.

“Between 11:00 p.m. on September 12 and 3:10 a.m. on September 13, an unknown suspect entered an unlocked vehicle inside a garage and stole a cell phone,” ACPD said of the theft. “The investigation is ongoing and detectives will work to determine if this case is linked to any others reported in Arlington County.”

An anonymous resident in the same area as the break-in, a few blocks from Ballston, contacted ARLnow with video footage (above) of a man looking into a vehicle behind a house, taken that same night. Nothing appears to have been taken in the video, however, and police declined to confirm whether the person seen is a suspect in the theft.

ACPD was notified about the video, the resident said.

The video was taken with an Ring video camera. Arlington County Police are considering a public safety partnership with the Amazon-owned company, the Washington Business Journal reported last week, despite concerns nationally about the privacy implications of such partnerships.

On Ring’s Neighbors app, at least a half dozen car break-ins have been reported in and around Arlington over the past week — mostly involving unlocked vehicles. ACPD has been reminding residents to lock their cars and homes at night as part of a public safety initiative dubbed the “9 P.M. Routine.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Mechaniku is built on a simple frustration: no one likes waiting for their car to get worked on. So Mechaniku will work with users to have a mechanic sent out to change their oil.

The company is based along Columbia Pike, where co-founders Jesse Tyler and Clifton Hartsuff live.

“In a society fast becoming overtaken by technology I am shocked this is not already a common service provided in every city,” Tyler said. “We live in a world of convenience and I believe people will pay for this service because it ultimately makes lives easier. It takes a time-consuming and aggravating practice and simplifies it.”

The company currently only has one service: a full synthetic oil change in 30 minutes for $100. It’s a little pricey as far as oil changes go, which average a little under $50. But Tyler said the convenience is part of the cost.

“It’s about the convenience of having someone come to your home,” Tyler said. “We did one for a guy here on Columbia Pike… he said ‘I’ll pay $150 if it means I don’t have to get out of my pajamas and go sit in a line on Sunday morning.'”

Tyler said half of the $100 goes to the mechanic, while the other half goes to the company. The goal, Tyler said, is to connect qualified mechanics with freelance jobs to help make some money on the side.

In the future, Tyler said the company could expand to tire rotation and other light car maintenance jobs, but he’s in no rush to grow.

“I think several of the groups on the market with a similar model have made the mistake of trying to do everything instead of focusing on doing a service well and what they end up doing by trying to do everything is not doing a very good job of anything,” Tyler said. “We seek to be the best at offering on demand oil changes to our customers with the ultimate goal of providing excellent service and giving them time back.”

Tyler said the pricing and types of oil changes could also change over time as the company continues to refine its business model. The company’s app is currently available on Android and Tyler said the company is working to get it onto the Apple App Store on iOS.

“My father always told me not to reinvent the wheel,” said Tyler. “So we’ve taken an existing business and improved on it.”

Image via Mechaniku

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